Five months and 266 games later, it all comes down to Super Bowl 50 this Sunday at Levi’s Stadium in San Francisco between the two best teams with the two best defenses in the league.
It has been a very up and down season for the Denver Broncos. They started the season off 7-0, even with Peyton Manning not playing well at all. Following the Week 9 loss to the Colts in Indiana and the Week 10 embarrassment at the hands of the Kansas City Chiefs, Manning injured his foot.
To replace him in came the second year quarterback Brock Osweiler. Osweiler led the Broncos to a 4-2 record and kept them within striking range of the No. 1 seed in the American Football Conference.
When it came time to play San Diego in the last game of the regular season, Osweiler was struggling, so really out of nowhere comes in Manning. He ended up leading the Broncos to a win to end the regular season and two playoff wins that put him right back in the Super Bowl.
It has not at all been an up and down season for the Carolina Panthers. All year, their defense has been playing great and their run game has been among one of the best. Cam Newton has done a great job throwing the ball to a receiving core where the number one wide receiver is Ted Ginn.
Lastly, all year they have been finding ways to win football games. The only game that they did lose this season was against Atlanta in the Georgia Dome without Jonathan Stewart. Newton may be having one of the best seasons for anyone in recent history.
He is the only QB in history to throw for 30 or more touchdowns and rush for 10 or more touchdowns in the same season. After a phenomenal regular season, Carolina put away the Seahawks early in the divisional round and absolutely pummeled the Cardinals in the National Football Conference Championship game, which has landed them in their second Super Bowl in franchise history.
For each of these teams, the game is going to come down to matchups. Manning and the Denver offense have not gone up against a defense like Carolina’s all season, and it is very fair to say that Denver is struggling offensively. They only put up a combined 43 points in the first two rounds of the playoffs, while Carolina has scored a combined 55 points in the first half of their first two playoff games. If Denver wants to compete with a team that has scored more points than they have in their first two games, they are going to have to do better.
It is a very similar situation for Carolina. Denver has the number one defense in the NFL and they have been giving their opponents’ passing offenses headaches all season long with their top notch pass rush and top notch secondary. From the surface of it, this looks like a game that will have a lot of defense and not very much scoring.
There’s a lot on the line for one person in particular in this game. For Manning, a win would mean going out on top and putting himself on another level in regards to some of the best QBs of all time.
Right now, a lot of people look at him as someone who has not had very much success in the playoffs in comparison to others such as Tom Brady, Joe Montana, John Elway and others. He has the ability to retire with a winning playoff record (14-13), and also become the only QB to win a Super Bowl with at least two different teams.